Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

ELECTION PREVIEW: Tax questions in three school districts

CAROL MCGRAW and KRISTINA IODICE Updated: October 18, 2010 at 12:00 am

Three area school districts have bond measures on the November ballot to pay for such things as school construction, technology, improved security and programs.

PEYTON SCHOOL DISTRICT 23 JT

Measures 3A and 3B

The rural school district has two bond issues totaling $3.3 million.

No property tax increase is included in 3A passes. If the companion 3B is approved, it would add about $1 a month in taxes for a house valued at $150,000.

No opposition to the measures was submitted for the county’s election booklet, notes Tracy Logar, a bond committee member.

The first measure would allow the district to accept a $3 million Building Excellent Schools Today construction grant from the state, said Superintendent TimKistler. It would allow the district to pay for its match with taxes that now go to a bond for an elementary school that will be paid off in 2014. That, coupled with an increase in assessed valuation, means property taxes would not increase.

If the measure fails, the district would not receive the $3 million in state matching money.

The money would  build a 14,000-square-foot middle school wing on the high school building, including 11 classrooms and a gym, to better separate middle and high school students and alleviate crowding. The project would include a kitchen expansion, new waste treatment facility and security equipment.

The second question, 3B, would be for a $750,000 bond to create an industrial arts program in the middle school that was closed to save money. Pikes Peak Community College may provide an industrial arts teacher and pay rent to the district for college classes.

High school students from Peyton and surrounding areas such as Calhan, Simla and Elbert would be able to take classes there, and adult and evening classes might be added in the future.

FALCON SCHOOL DISTRICT 49

Residents will decide on a $125 million bond for school improvements in the district.

If approved, property taxes would increase about $3.25 for every $100,000 in home value, on average an additional $6.50 per month, District 49 Superintendent Bradley Schoeppey said.

Crowding has been a problem at Falcon, one of the fastest growing school districts in the region. Schoeppey said this year’s enrollment increased by 1 percent, but many schools are above capacity. Horizon Middle School has several hundred students more than what it was built to handle, he said, and the narrow hallways and smaller classrooms are problems.

Money to update facilities would help the district decrease the use of portable classrooms.

Project the bonds would pay for include:

• Renovation and expansion at Horizon Middle School.

• Additional classrooms at Falcon High School and Vista Ridge High School to expand capacity by 400 students.

• Completion of the long-planned gymnasium and auditorium at Vista Ridge.

• A new 600-student elementary school near Falcon Middle School, the district’s fastest growing area.

• A new 900-student K-8 school in the Indigo Ranch area.

• Safety, technology and transportation needs including key cards, security cameras and computer system infrastructure.

“If we don’t get help from the community there are some things that will have to go by the wayside,” said school board President Dave Martin.

The last tax increase in the district was in 2005, when voters approved an $80.5 million mill levy override.

CRIPPLE CREEK-VICTOR SCHOOL DISTRICT RE-1

The mountain school district is asking voters for a 2.493 mill levy increase to bring in an additional $574,670 in property taxes. It would cost taxpayers about $1.50 a month on a $100,000 home, offcials said.

Superintendent Sue Holmes said the district is struggling with budget cuts and falling enrollment. This year, it cut about $500,000 — about 10 percent of the budget.

“Small districts don’t have as much cushion in the budget,” Holmes said, noting that cuts hit hard: Eliminating one teacher can mean another class doubles in size.

Additional tax money would help restore and keep teachers and programs, as well as maintain class sizes at 15 to 18 students per class.

The mill levy override would help restore elementary tutoring programs, and pay for music and art classes for all students and Advanced Placement and vocational classes for high schoolers.

With a relatively modest funding boost, the district could do much better, Holmes said.

A recent phone survey showed a fairly even yes-no split, she said, about what was seen in 2007 when the district campaigned successfully for a bond. She was unaware of any organized opposition to the mill levy override.

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